What’s in a brand name?

Coming up with a new brand or product name for a company is one of the hardest things to do as a creative person.

Pre-internet (yes there was life before the internet and yes, I’m old enough to remember it!) a business just had to compete with other businesses in the same city. But living in our global digital village there are so many influencing factors that must be taken into account before creating a name. My rule of thumb is any name must meet the following criteria and be:

  1. distinctive
  2. trademarkable
  3. registrable
  4. and available as a domain name.

It is this last category that is both a problem and an opportunity. Firstly, you can forget about the .com version of the domain name as whatever name you come up with will already be purchased and parked by some entrepreneurial Mac monkey* just waiting for you to come along with plenty of money to spend.

*Like the apocryphal room of monkeys with typewriters who will eventually type out the works of Shakespeare, I always picture a room of digital monkeys blindly registering every combination of letters they can, before beating their tiny wings and taking to the air like that scene from the Wizard of Oz. But I digress…

In the Australian market it is best to concentrate on the .com.au variant anyway as this helps Google recognise where you are from. If by chance the .com is available it is a wise business strategy to buy this as well – as a blocking strategy to other companies trying to trade off your (new) name. But I’m getting ahead of myself as that will come much later, when, armed with your highly creative company name, creative branding and marketing strategy (did I mention we can help you with these as well?) you become mega-successful.

And it is wise to think of all applications of the proposed name before committing and buying the URL. Take a bow the US company who buy and sell children’s toys called ‘Kids Exchange’ and who had the foresight not to register www.kidsexchange.com (have you seen the problem yet?).

The Brazilian ad agency for Renault have utilised this quirk of naming protocol quite beautifully in a press ad for the Renault Logan2, but that’s another story.

The opportunity in this space is coming up with a simple name that is memorable but still easily spelt. Do not try to get around a conflicting name by using numbers (8 for ‘ate’) or a ‘z’ in place of an ‘s’ or resorting to the use of hyphens or dashes as these will just look cheap and cause confusion.

Just imagine you get to the point where you need a radio commercial (yep, we do those too!) and the script requires that, at the end of the commercial, the vocal talent has to read out your domain name. You don’t want to waste valuable airtime spelling out www.xtreme-hairtrenz.com.au “That’s ‘extreme’ without the first ‘e’ dash hair ‘trends’ with no ‘d’ but a ‘z’ and a silent ‘q’…” An extreme example, but you get my point…best to apply the KISS principle and keep it simple.

Personally, I also have a problem with the sports equipment brand, when going up against a competitor like Puma, that called themselves Kooga. They are probably great products and really successful but I find it a bit ‘try hard’.

And don’t get me started on the car companies who think the Nissan Qashqai or Subaru Levorg are going to become household names (Note: these are real cars and available now). I think the digital monkeys were having an off day when they came up with those gems.

I prefer company names like Youi. Uber. Ebay. All simple, all memorable and all easy to spell – and all four letters – but that’s coincidental. As more companies come into the world every day there are only a finite amount of four letter combinations available – so best not to limit yourself unnecessarily.

And for every great four letter brand name there is a flipside. Here I am thinking of Barf Laundry Detergent (yes, it exists) that is quite popular in the Middle East (apparently ‘Barf’ means ‘snow’ in Persian). And as a recent Sydney Morning Herald article1 pointed out, all those companies named after the Egyptian goddess Isis, that are now having to go through the process of rebranding through no fault of their own.

If you manage to avoid the digital pitfalls, perhaps the hardest part of this process can be challenging your own pre-conceptions. To be completely memorable and distinctive as a brand or product name, it must not sound like you’ve heard it before – and in doing so, you must be different and go out on a limb. And don’t worry, I just checked – limb.com.au is taken…those bloody monkeys!

Andy Engel
Head of Creative

1. Awkward: When business names go bad (July 6, 2016) by Larissa Ham

2. https://adsoftheworld.com/media/print/renault_internal_space_kids_exchange